Walsall 3 PNE 1
The Saddlers came from behind to take all three points from the clash at the Bescot Stadium.
Joel Byrom opened the scoring for North End as early as the tenth minute with a header, but an equaliser before the break by James Baxendale and two second half strikes from George Bowerman, the first from the penalty sport gave the home side the victory.
Manager Graham Westley had made two changes to the midweek’s five star display against Hartlepool, with skipper John Mousinho and Paul Huntington both returning to the side.
Mousinho was to play just in front of the North End back line in the opening stages as was needed to nullify a high paced opening from the home side that saw Steve Simonsen needed as early as the third minute to tip over a shot from Nicky Featherstone from 25 yards out.
However, North End had the lead with only ten minutes on the clock. John Welsh won a tackle in the middle of the park and this allowed Nicky Wroe to break down the right hand flank. He put over an inch perfect ball for the onrushing Joel Byrom, who made it two in two starts, heading home the cross into the bottom left hand corner, Karl Darlow – the debutant keeper on loan from Forest – getting a hand to it but unable to keep it out.
North End looked like they’d have a chance to double that lead just after the quarter hour mark and Stuart Beavon went clean through, but referee Lee Collins adjudged that he had fouled Andy Butler on his way through, much to everyone’s surprise.
Beavon did have a legal attempt on goal just two minutes later as his header from Bailey Wright’s driven cross from the right, was tipped over the bar by Darlow and from the corner Shane Cansdell-Sherriff headed just wide of the left hand post.
As the half went on the Saddlers came into the game more and more and just after the half hour mark Steve Simonsen made a fantastic double save. Florent Cuvelier took a free kick over the PNE wall from 25 yards and Simonsen was at full stretch to tip the ball around the post, onto the edge of the post itself. And from corner he was back up and made another full stretch diving save to deny Taylor.
However, the home side drew level on 38 minutes as James Baxendale scored with what was probably a cross that became a great shot. He was fed by Jamie Paterson before trying to clip the ball to the back post, however, it looped up and over Simonsen and into the top left hand corner, giving the keeper no chance.
Just before the goal the North End boss had made a tactical change, Akpo Sodje replacing Will Hayhurst, with Jeffrey Monakana following at half-time for Paul Huntington.
With 54 minutes on the clock George Bowerman was adjudged to have been brought down by Shane Cansdell-Sherriff on the right hand side of the box and from the penalty spot the same man got up and sent Steve Simonsen the wrong way, sliding the ball into the bottom left hand corner to give them the lead.
And it was 3-1 just three minutes later as Bowerman again picked the ball up 25 yards out and curled it left footed into the same corner as his penalty.
Simonsen denied Taylor a fourth with a save from a 30 yard free kick in the 66th minute with the home side looking to try and kill the game off, not settling on their three goal salvo and on 73 minutes the keeper was again required to be in top form to deny a powerful effort from Baxendale.
The home side then did an excellent job of closing out the game, with North End never really forcing Karl Darlow into the action in the remaining part of the game.